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when the counselor becomes the student

I will use both the identifier autistic and person-first language when discussing career counseling for autistic adults. Different groups prefer either term.

Not neurotypical at all am I. My anxiety shows up with startle responses every time it thunders. Kind of fun when doing online therapy! I provide career counseling for adults with autism (and other conditions).

But I don't have autism. I am not an autistic adult. Not even a little bit.

career counseling for autistic adults

Five years of doing career counseling with autistic adults has taught me so much. Mostly, it has taught me where I was wrong.

I have worked as an academic accommodations counselor at a local university. I watched many capable autistic students graduate and struggle to get hired. Researching the statistics, I discovered that half of those with autism who graduate college struggle to find a job and may remain underemployed. It made me think, "Something is very wrong with this picture!"

Five years ago I thought, "Someone ought to do something about this". So I started a side hustle that became Accessible Career PLLC and hoped to help out. Turns out I was the one who was taught some things.

The following list is a personal list of my own experience. It is not meant to be exhaustive or to give guidelines. I feel as though the following is an admission of how wrong assumptions can negatively impact outcomes.

five top lessons

Here are five of the top lessons I feel as though I learned and am still learning:

  1. It is not usually the autism. The comorbid anxiety, depression, and ADHD are big factors. Estimates are that 60% of autistic adults have conditions that affect activities of daily living. Treat those and remove a big roadblock.
  2. The why matters. If autistic adults have a reason sensible to them that motivates them to overcome an obstacle, they feel more competent to try and resolve issues. But it it takes some mutual exploration to define a suitable reason. "Just because" is what you tell a two-year old.
  3. Respect matters. My respect for autistic individuals has grown immensely as I had to admit to my own misunderstanding of how environment and stressful relationships impact success. When I can get my assumptions out of the way, I do better as a counselor.
  4. Change is totally possible! Often autistic adults make changes and sustain those changes much more consistently than other individuals. Again, it may take a little longer to resolve miscommunication and find a suitable way forward.
  5. Other autistic adult mentors are so needed. Organizations like and bloggers like Christina Holman at elevate the voices of autistic adults. Autistic adults benefit from having autistic adult voices, publications, and communities to follow. It reduces the "translation gap" between neurotypicality and autistic communication.

That list of lessons continues to grow.

changes made as a career counselor

I believe that I can learn more from my clients if I keep an open heart and mind. Their input is critical. Without that teamwork, any career plan that we make will not meet the needs. When doing career counseling for autistic adults, keeping an open mind is paramount.

It can be easy to pigeonhole autistic adults into certain career fields. However, it is critical to avoid this pop career psychology.

Autistic adults come with as many talents as the general population. Careful exploration and communication will help career seekers to find a good career. It is more important to find the right company culture, supportive and committed to diversity. Organizations like Spectrum Fusion, nonPariel Institute, Ultranauts (formerly Ultra Testing), and others are exploring ways to harness autistic talent. I hope that leads to greater adoption of creative methods to find and place autistic candidates.

career counseling for autistic adults can help

For those of you reading this that offer opportunities for employment, consider keeping an open mind when evaluating candidates that do not fit your desired mold. Autistic adults are a talented pool of professionals that are rarely tapped. I believe that is a missed opportunity.

For parents, encourage your teen to start working before college. Without an adequate work history, it is much more difficult to find a job after college graduation. Also, all new workers benefit from trying out different fields. Explore many types of jobs before selecting an occupation. Career assessments can help offer some ideas to explore. Some parent find the book The Loving Push a way to get started.

For the experienced autistic professional who has insights to add, your feedback, however candid, is welcome. If you yourself are considering a career change or a workplace tune up, feel free to reach out for counseling or career coaching.

If you just need help removing roadblocks, we are happy to talk to you to see if there is a fit. You can contact Accessible Career to setup a time for a 15-minute free phone consultation.

We look forward to continuing to admit where we are wrong.

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